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Channel 4’s new showcase of rib-tickling talent, THE COMEDY LAB, includes most of this year's Perrier shortlist and should have you howling like a hyena on crack. Words: Brian Donaldson

Who says there is too much comedy on telly'.’ Well. most people probably would. For every l’asr Slum- there is half a dozen Bur/tings and trailing behind each Vic ’n‘ Bob slithers many a Male and Pace. So when a new comedy show arrives. delirious ecstasy is unlikely to break free.

But what if a series includes the cream of British and Irish comedy and many of this year‘s shortlisted Perrier names. Welcome to The (‘nmetly Lab and its nine- week comedic experimentation conducted by the likes of Perrier winner Tommy Tiernan. nominees lid Byrne and Peter Kay. mad red- haired lrish loon Jason Byrne and anti-Magic Circle illusionist and zit-exploder Paul Xenon.

‘I think there‘s too much mediocre stand-up comedy on TV if you‘re not laughing. it's not comedy.‘ opines Tiernan. 'Rather than taking the route of going on TV or releasing videos. it‘s good to remain slightly underground so that people think they‘re getting a treat when they go to see you.‘

For Jason Byrne (Perrier Newcomer nominee). the golden age of TV comedy has been and gone. ‘There‘s obviously all the big ones like Steve (‘oogaIL French and Saunders. maybe six or seven acts that you'd immediately laugh at.' he notes. ‘But years ago there was Kenny liverett. Benny Hill. Spike Milligan and all the Monty Python crew. all on at the same time. All very different but all just as big.‘

All that said. Tiernan and Byrne's contributions are far from mediocre. Jason meets namesake lid in Vinyl '1in (Wed 2 Dec). analysing the year‘s pop video promos with verbal and visual brilliance. Jason also goes it alone as ’Iii'igev .Vn Brunch (Wed 23 Dec) at a scarecrow festival in Lancashire. 'lt was just a mad little village and there were all those people who were very lovely but just freaks.‘ insists Byrne. pot and kettle fashion. "l'here was one part where I wanted a shotgun and we were in the bar and this bloke goes. “yeah I got one". And we wanted a James Bond microlight. so they got us one of them. too. They all knew each other and they were just mad —- knew nothing about the outside world.‘

'There's too much mediocre stand-up comedy on TV. If you're not laughing, it's not comedy.’ Tommy Tiernan

Tommy Tiernan: Navan a laugh

The outside world. or rather the localised settings and brutal. quirky nuances of his .\'avan hometown in (ialway is where ex-doleite. ex-youth club organiser.

ex-kids' probation worker and sometime actor

Tommy 'l‘iernan garners his material. as seen in 'Iirmmy 'Ii'ernan Is alive (Wed 25 Nov).

He may call Navan 'the knackers palindromes'. but it‘s also home to two Perrier winners. Tiernan having followed in Dylan Moran‘s faltering footsteps. What chance of a third'.’ "I‘hey’re growing one now in a laboratory] he jokes. 'lt's the Stepford ('omedians or ll’vstwm‘ltl. When he's ready he’ll be delivered onto the circuit.’

Where he will meet red-hot competition from the man whose (/N-Ihi'ine (‘nmetly show brilliantly utilised a life on the run from fascistic Latin teachers and nearly got him excommunicated in his native land. ‘My whole thing about controversy is that you get an ulcer if you try to plan it because you're hoping desperately that it works and I wouldn’t be that connivingf declares Tiernan. ‘So I hope to be back next year with a new show called link The ('liris'litms.‘

The Comedy Lab starts on Channel 4, Wed 4 Nov, 11.30pm.

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